An alarming rise in cases linked to establishments that sell alcohol caused British Columbia’s top doctor, Bonnie Henry, to revise existing health orders and close down nightclubs and banquet halls province-wide. As the summer comes to a close and we are forced inside because of colder weather, Henry suggests we rethink how we socialize and focus on what’s important, getting children back to school and people back to work.
David Johnston, the owner of the popular Blue Grotto, stated that “people really need to get behind the eradication of this very serious disease before the Grotto can become the Grotto it once was before [COVID-19].”
As a live music venue owner, Johnston is concerned for our live music industry here in Kamloops and compared the Grotto’s inability to book bands at the moment to “owning a farm and not being able to buy seeds anymore.”
The Blue Grotto had practically just opened up when they were served the order to close. Johnston said that “his heart had just started to feel better and that [he] was pumped to move forward and start renegotiating with bands [he] had existing contracts with.” After he got word that they had to cease operations immediately, he said “[he] just couldn’t believe it.” Johnston added that the Grotto had done a lot of work to get the establishment ready to reopen. Sadly, still, “all nightclubs seem to be being painted with the same brush right now… and with this second-wave coming, it could be months before [the Grotto] can open up again,” he said.
Johnston discussed the possibility of “allowing bands to use his stage and equipment so that they can live-stream virtual concerts.” He said he is considering doing so so that bands can get up and play and get some exposure during these uncertain times. He also discussed the possibility of hosting “closed-door experiences” or “soundcheck parties,” where a minimal amount of people could come in and see the bands perform in a relaxed and socially distant atmosphere.
Johnston says, “[the community] will have to work together and negotiate possibilities” to feature these performances. “It’s hard to open for 50 people and have a band come in and properly compensate them… it costs money to get the bands on stage… a lot of bands in the community have offered to play for free, and that just doesn’t sit right with me,” he said.
To remedy this issue and keep the business afloat, the Blue Grotto is seeking grants in the hopes of being able to compensate those bands that wish to play fairly for their efforts and talent.
Johnston added that “we’ve got a long way to go before we’re back to that packed bar, shoulder to shoulder, everyone dancing with their hands up on the dance floor” type experience.
He begs lovers of the Grotto and live music show support for the business by taking COVID-19 seriously by wearing masks.